Professor Colin Diamond from the University of Birmingham School of Education writes an encouraging note to parents of young children. He addresses the need for parents to go along with children’s play fantasy to allow exploration of new ideas, and how to manage short attention spans.
This week I am thinking of parents who have young children who may have just started school. They will be used to an early years’ classroom environment which is designed to put play at the heart of learning. This doesn’t mean endless rounds of play: rather it recognises that play is a vital part of how young children learn through both solo imaginative play and playing with their friends.
When I visit early years classrooms I often find myself involved in the children’s games as they ‘cook’ a meal for me or ‘drive a car’ somewhere and, as the adult, it’s so important to go along with the play fantasy as the child’s mind explores and tests out new ideas.
As adults, it’s important to involve ourselves in their fantasies to encourage our children to explore and experiment with new ideas. So how do we get the right balance at home?
At school, the teacher will move the children from one activity to another quickly. They will be listening to a story together with the teacher and then she will move them into activities around their tables. Perhaps they will be doing some counting or classifying objects for a while. Then they might be doing some letter shapes and drawing. The best classrooms have a lovely low level buzz as the children interact with each other.
The message for us at home is to have a varied diet of activities as the children’s concentration span isn’t usually good for long. That means two or three different things within, say, an hour.
Parents can try these activities within FrogSchool lessons such as a reading activity, making a kite or to watch a video about pets! And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with a little screen time to give you both a rest because teaching one-to-one is quite intense.
Don’t worry if things don’t work out. Teachers have been planning these routines for years and have perfected the art of managing their classrooms. And if you manage to achieve a couple of hours of quality learning time with the little ones, you are doing very well.
Prof Colin Diamond
University of Birmingham School of Education
Colin Diamond has worked in the field of educational leadership for many years in England and has been a Head of Faculty, Associate Headteacher, Local Education Authority Adviser, Assistant Director and Director of Education/Children's Services. He has helped many young people to read and enjoy literature to the full and led improvements in two local authorities.